Developer: Starfire Studios / Publisher: StarfireStudios / Played On: Xbox 360 / Price: 800 MSP ($9.99) / ESRB: Teen [Mild Language, Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence, Sexual Themes]
Space mercenaries have it made, don’t they? Flying around the uncharted cosmos, getting is dogfights with rivals mercs, taking odd jobs to earn small fortunes, and not giving a shit about anyone but themselves. Well rejoice, Han Solo wannabes, because Fusion: Genesis for the Xbox 360 lets you live out your space adventurer dreams.
After a quick introductory stage that lays down the basic gameplay elements, you’re thrown right into a story involving five warring factions. Each of the different intergalactic organizations has their own goals in mind for the future as well as their own outfit of ships and weaponry. The story and the missions you get from each faction fail to resonate as anything but fodder for experience and cash, making it entirely forgettable.
Fusion: Genesis is a dual-stick shooter at its core with a hefty dose of RPG for good measure. Whether you’re exploring new zones, mining for minerals, or infiltrating an enemy base, you’ll inevitably be blasting bad guys with the right stick. Aiding in your journeys across the deepest reaches of space is your sentient, a small computer controlled ally that aids in combat by providing additional firepower and healing abilities. Completing missions for each faction will grant you experience points to level up your ship and increase stats like defense and damage, as well as bank thousands of dollars to buy new parts and weapons for your spaceship. Completing side missions such as protecting a large gunship, drilling meteoroids to harvest precious elements, or destroying a certain number of enemy ships earns faction points which can be spent to unlock Faction Skills that are unique to each faction. These skills range from feigning death to barrel rolls and are effective mainly in combat. Your sentient (or sentients; you can have up to three) can also be leveled up and have their skills improved. What it all breaks down to is an enormous amount of customization. Meticulous management of skills and ships won’t sit well with players craving immediate action as you’ll spend a lot of time sifting through menus and upgrading your flying battleship.
Missions are relatively short and can be completed in less than five minutes. Without a strong story element though, these missions start to feel more like a grindfest rather than a fulfilling quest. In a similar fashion to an MMO, you’ll look at an available quest, skip reading the details, and just look at what has to be done to complete the quest and accept your reward. PVP breaks up some of these feelings, but it isn’t implemented as well as it could have been. Warzones are special areas that allow players from opposing factions to fight for space supremacy, while Raids are co-op affairs that have you and fellow mercs defending your home turf while ransacking the enemy’s base. Though the game attempts to create some variety within these modes, it ultimately breaks down to you just blowing up other human ships as opposed to computer controlled ships. These sessions aren’t fleshed out as well as they could have been and feel like a missed opportunity. Gameplay can get bland at times and feel like you’re just increasing numbers, but when at its best Fusion: Genesis has you shooting missiles and navigating through asteroid fields while avoiding an entire enemy fleet.
Fusion: Genesis will take you through the far reaches of space, which surprisingly looks very beautiful. The ambient hues of one planet’s atmosphere are complimented by the blazing fires of another. Seeing what each new area would look like was exciting. But though the settings are colorful and varied, objects in the foreground and background tend to blur together and it’s hard to tell what is an obstacle to avoid and what isn’t. I often rammed into an asteroid thinking I could pass through it, and when on an escape mission this can be detrimental. Part of this problem is because everything is fairly tiny in size. While this scaling does make things like space stations seem much grander, it hampers exploration and combat. Even with these minor shortcomings, the visuals still varied and of good quality.
When you first start the game you are given the option to set the game to be constantly online. If you choose to do this you’ll see other spaceships going about their business and you can ask another player to join your party to help out in missions (up to four players can be in a party). Unless in the PVP Warzone you can’t interact with these other players at all and that’s a letdown. Emphasis is placed on PVP in the game because some of the best items you can unlock are only attainable if you have a certain number of PVP-specific points, so it’s unfortunate a better system isn’t in place. Also there is a distinct lack of communication between players. Party members do not appear on your map or HUD and you need to be in an Xbox Live party in order to use a microphone. I feel that multiplayer could have been so much better: dedicated servers could have greatly improved PVP play, and more interaction between players while in the world would have been nice for sure. I finished Fusion: Genesis wanting much, much more from the multiplayer side.
Fusion: Genesis is a solid title despite its drawbacks. Even though the game gets repetitive you’re constantly receiving rewards and increasing your stats, which makes the game addictive. Multiplayer could have been implemented better and is a missed opportunity. The amount of customization will keep you busy for hours with a multitude of upgrades and ships to outfit and edit. Those looking for a slick space shooter with tons of action will feel disappointed by Fusion: Genesis’ slow pace, but if you stick with it, beefing up your ship and fighting it out in space isn’t bad at all.